Post Operative Instructions for Tooth Extractions

Recovering from a tooth extraction requires careful attention to your dentist’s post-operative instructions to ensure a smooth and speedy recovery. Following these guidelines can help minimize discomfort, reduce the risk of complications, and facilitate healing. Here are the essential care tips covering bleeding, swelling, dry sockets, diet, oral hygiene, rinsing, sutures, activity levels, and prescriptions.


Bleeding after a tooth extraction is normal and to manage it effectively, firmly press gauze against the extraction site for 60 minutes following the procedure (avoid chewing on the gauze). Replace the gauze as it becomes soaked with blood and saliva, which may occur approximately every 20 minutes. It is crucial for a blood clot to form and stabilize in the extracted area; therefore, avoid touching the site with fingers, tongue, or any objects. Some degree of bleeding or oozing is expected for up to 24 hours after the extraction. It is also common to notice small amounts of blood on your pillow the following morning, so placing a towel over your pillow is recommended. If you experience excessive bleeding, apply firm pressure with one or two folded gauze pads or a damp tea bag to the affected area for 30-60 minutes while keeping your head elevated. Should the bleeding not subside, contact the dental office for further instructions.


Swelling is also a common occurrence after a tooth extraction and should be anticipated. To help reduce swelling, apply cold compresses or an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minute intervals during the first 24 hours. Typically, any swelling will start to decrease after 72 hours. To further assist in reducing swelling, sleep with your head slightly elevated. If swelling spreads up towards your eye or down your throat, leading to closure or constriction of either, or if you begin to experience a fever, please contact our office immediately.

Dry Sockets

We take the issue of dry sockets very seriously. A dry socket occurs when the blood clot at the extraction site becomes dislodged. This condition can lead to constant moderate to severe discomfort and typically manifests 3-5 days following the extraction. To prevent a dry socket, it is crucial NOT to smoke, spit, rinse vigorously, use a straw, blow your nose forcefully, or consume alcohol for the next 48-72 hours. Additionally, exercise and having food particles become trapped in the extraction site can also contribute to the development of a dry socket.


Diet can play a significant role in your recovery process. Ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, but avoid using a straw as this can disrupt the healing site. Also, steer clear of carbonated and alcoholic drinks. For the initial 24 hours post-extraction, opt for soft and cold foods such as smoothies, yogurt, and protein drinks. It’s advisable to adhere to a soft diet for at least the first three days. Recommended soft foods include yogurt, pudding, smoothies, gelatin, protein shakes, ice cream, tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and mashed potatoes. During the first two weeks, it’s important to avoid foods like chicken noodle soup, chicken, steak, rice, nuts, seeds, chunky soups, red pepper flakes, and popcorn, as these items may become lodged in the extraction site and impede healing.

Oral Hygiene

Starting 24 hours post-extraction, gently brush and floss your teeth, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoiding any vigorous actions near the extraction site. Rather than forcefully spitting or rinsing, allow fluids to exit your mouth passively to protect the healing blood clot. For the first week, steer clear of mouthwashes with harsh chemicals or alcohol, and consider a gentle saltwater rinse—mix a teaspoon of salt in warm water for a soothing, antibacterial effect. Monitoring the site for signs of infection and practicing gentle oral hygiene can aid in a smooth and swift recovery process.


Beginning 24 hours after your procedure, gently swish with warm salt water following meals and before going to bed to aid in the healing process. Should you have received an irrigation syringe, use it to gently rinse the extraction site with warm salt water after every meal from days 3 to 7. This practice not only helps in keeping the area clean but also significantly reduces the risk of infection and aids in the removal of food particles that may get trapped in the extraction site, promoting a healthier healing environment.


If sutures were applied during your procedure, they are typically self-dissolving and will naturally break down over time, eliminating the need for removal. However, this process depends on the type of material used and your body’s healing response, which varies from person to person. In certain cases, your dentist or surgeon might use non-dissolvable stitches, depending on the specifics of your extraction. If so, a follow-up appointment will be necessary to remove them. Always adhere to the post-operative care instructions provided by your dental professional and contact them if you have any questions or concerns regarding your sutures. This ensures that the healing process proceeds smoothly, and any potential complications are addressed promptly.


For the initial week following your procedure, it’s advisable to limit physical activity to nothing more strenuous than a light walk. Engaging in vigorous exercise, running, or heavy lifting can increase blood pressure, leading to bleeding at the extraction site and potentially disrupting the healing process. Furthermore, such activities may exacerbate swelling and discomfort during a period when your body needs to focus on recovery. Allowing your body the time to heal properly by keeping activities low-key and avoiding any form of strenuous exertion is crucial for a smooth and efficient healing process. If you’re unsure about when it’s safe to resume more intense physical activities, consult with your dental professional for personalized advice.


If prescribed antibiotics, continue taking them until the entire course is completed, even if symptoms seem to improve. Be aware that some antibiotics may affect the efficacy of birth control pills or other medications, so proceed with caution when combining these treatments. Follow the instructions for any prescribed pain relief or other medications closely. Regardless of perceived need, administer Ibuprofen for the first two days to combat inflammation and swelling. Dosage recommendations include 800mg of Ibuprofen every 6-8 hours, supplemented with 500mg of Tylenol in the intervals between Ibuprofen doses.


In summary, following your tooth extraction, adhering to the detailed post-operative care instructions is key to a smooth and effective healing process. From managing bleeding with gentle pressure to reducing swelling with cold compresses, and from ensuring proper diet to practicing cautious oral hygiene, every step is crucial. Remember to avoid activities that could disrupt the healing process, such as strenuous exercise or using a straw, and to closely follow prescription guidelines for medications and antibiotics to prevent complications. By taking these precautions and maintaining communication with your dental professional, you can ensure a recovery that is as comfortable and rapid as possible, paving the way for your oral health to return to its optimal state.